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Nixon v. Maryland Department of Public Saftey and Correctional Services

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 6, 2018




         Presently pending and ready for resolution is the motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment filed by Defendants Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (“DPSCS”) and twelve DPSCS employees named in the complaint (collectively, “Defendants”) (ECF No. 21), the motion for leave to amend filed by Plaintiff Lonnie Nixon (ECF No. 13), and the motion for leave to supplement filed by Plaintiff (ECF No. 16). The issues have been briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, the motion to dismiss will be granted, the motion for leave to supplement will be denied, and the motion for leave to amend will be denied.

         I. Background[1]

         Plaintiff is an inmate formerly housed at the Metropolitan Transition Center (“MTC”). On December 1, 2016, Plaintiff Lonnie Nixon asked to go to the library to work on an appeal of his conviction but was informed by Defendant Eregha that the library was closed even though the library had reopened that day. On December 2, he asked to see case management to obtain copies of documents for his “re-trial motion, ” but Defendant Taylor denied his request. He also asked to speak with Defendant Williams and for a grievance form. Both requests were denied. On January 20, 2017, Sgt. Walker[2] would not allow Plaintiff to see case management even though Defendant Landerkin had given him a pass. Defendant Price denied Plaintiff's related grievances, and, on February 16, Plaintiff filed an action seeking damages for the denial of access to the courts. (ECF No. 1, at 2-3).

         On October 19, Defendants moved to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. (ECF No. 21). Plaintiff responded and supplemented his response. (ECF Nos. 27, 28, 29).

         II. Standard of Review

         The purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the complaint. Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006). A plaintiff's complaint need only satisfy the standard of Rule 8(a), which requires a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a ‘showing,' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief.” Bell. Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 n.3 (2007). That showing must consist of more than “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” or “naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal citations omitted).

         Pro se pleadings are liberally construed and held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by lawyers. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). Liberal construction means that the court will read the pleadings to state a valid claim to the extent that it is possible to do so from the facts available; it does not mean that the court should rewrite the complaint to include claims never presented. Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128, 1132 (10thCir. 1999). That is, even when pro se litigants are involved, the court cannot ignore a clear failure to allege facts that support a viable claim. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990); Forquer v. Schlee, No. RDB-12-969, 2012 WL 6087491, at *3 (D.Md. Dec. 4, 2012) (“[E]ven a pro se complaint must be dismissed if it does not allege a plausible claim for relief.” (citation and internal quotation marks omitted)).[3]

         III. Section 1983

         Construed liberally, Plaintiff purports to assert a claim that Defendants violated his constitutional rights by denying him legal resources interfering with his ability to access the courts. These claims, if viable, thus arise under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         Section 1983 provides, “Every person who, under color of any statute . . . of any State . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured[.]” (emphasis added). The Supreme Court of the United States has held that states and state agencies are not persons for the purposes of § 1983 and, therefore, cannot be held liable. Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). The Maryland Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services is “undoubtedly an arm of the state for purposes of § 1983.” Clark v. Md. Dep't of Public Safety & Corr. Servs., 316 Fed.Appx. 279, 282 (4th Cir. 2009). Accordingly, Defendant DPSCS will be dismissed.[4]

         Prisoners have a constitutional right to access courts to challenge convictions and redress violations of their rights, and, to effectuate that right, states have an “affirmative duty to provide meaningful access to the courts for incarcerated individuals.” White v. White, 886 F.2d 721, 727 (4th Cir. 1989). “[T]his constitutional obligation does not require states to afford inmates unlimited access to a library.” Petrick v. Maynard, 11 F.3d 991, 994 (10th Cir. 1993). Rather, states must only provide “a reasonably adequate opportunity to present claimed violations of fundamental constitutional rights to the courts.” Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 825 (1977).

         Plaintiff does not identify any acts by Defendants Alexander, White, Major, Holmes, Harris, Carter, and Swann. Accordingly, his claims against them will be dismissed.

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Landerkin issued a pass for him to see case management; Defendant Price denied his grievance requests; and his request to see Defendant Williams was denied. None of these allegations relate to access to the courts, and, therefore, ...

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